What’s mayor’s beef with assessments?

The city of Johnstown’s property-tax assessment revaluation must be the third rail of local politics, since I don’t recall Mayor Michael Julius talking about it during last fall’s mayoral election campaign. Sure, inflation and appreciation of well-maintained properties have forced the equalization rate in the city of Johnstown to slip to 73 percent over the past 25 years since the “tortured” Finnegan Associates revaluation in 1989-90; so what? The town of Amsterdam’s very low 10 percent equalization rate allows commerce along Route 30 to thrive. We should be as lucky.

For years, we’ve been urged to improve our homes without fear of retribution or spot reassessment from the assessor’s office. Now, Mayor Julius has read the local tea leaves and feels that one-third of our city properties are overassessed. You could have fooled me, since the least overworked people in the city are the unpaid members of our local Board of Assessment Review. Unless I’m mistaken, only one property owner appeared with a complaint on Grievance Day last May. Isn’t Mayor Julius trying to fix something that isn’t broken – and spending $75,000 in the process to create a “nanny state” and with it economic uncertainty for our local housing market for the next 18 months until the dust settles from the pending revaluation and subsequent grievance resolutions?

In 1990, Johnstown’s equalization rate skyrocketed to 125.17 percent after the Finnegan revaluation “fixed” our very low 1989 equalization rate; some fix. With all due respect, Mayor Julius, my 20/20 hindsight tells me the $75,000 budgeted for a revaluation is not the prescription to fix our city’s assessment problems. We would have been better served if we had a more productive defense of the city’s Walmart property assessments a couple years ago.

If you own property in the city of Johnstown and you believe that you are overassessed, make an appointment with Assessor Frank Parker and/or present your case to the Board of Assessment Review in May. They will conscientiously consider your presentation and grant a reduction if they feel your case warrants a reduction.

If you’re unhappy with the board’s decision, you can appeal it through the Small Claims Assessment Review process, whereby an independent administrative hearing officer will hear and consider the facts of your case (either excessive or unequal assessment) and make a decision based on the facts that you present.